Barre60 at Barre Tech in Del Ray, Alexandria, VA
Tuesday, June 9th at 9:30am
Instructor: Amy (owner?)
5 people in class – at least 2 brand new, possibly 3
I arrive 15 minutes early, as the website instructs. Upon arrival, I run into M, a fitness friend of mine, and am immediately happier to be taking class with someone I know.
Note: My experience is already better because I sense even the tiniest bit of camaraderie. I am not unique in this, and I think it is an important point for instructors everywhere. How do we create an immediate sense of community for someone new?
The “urban chic” appearance of Barre Tech is appealing, and inviting, and clean. And the girls waiting are friendly enough.
M and I tell Amy that we’re new. Amy says something positive – like “great!” or “cool,” except I’m guessing not “cool” because she appeared about mid-20s, and I think only 40-somethings say “cool” anymore. Actually, maybe just me and Abed from Community.
Amy instructs us to get some equipment and heads to the front of the room. She launches into a very lengthy description of what we can expect. Quite literally a play by play…
She is speaking so quickly, as if from a script. It seems like she has introduced class the same exact way 7000 times. Bueller…? Bueller…?
Dancer (or Francophile) snobbery: She pronounces the “s” in port de bras.
Why does this matter? For me, it undermined her credibility as a dancer. “Port de bras” literally translates from French (the official language of ballet) to mean “carriage of the arms.” Any dancer with basic ballet training knows this term and how to pronounce it properly.
Amy was dressed in the essence of what I would expect from a barre instructor. No distracting elements and proper coverage. Her hair is neat. Some of you who know me might be thinking that I would be better served spending my time you-tubing how to French braid my own head of hair rather than writing this blog. Touche.
Amy also looked like a dancer in many ways, which I found comforting, like her appearance made her competent.
Note: I am not saying to judge like this is fair. I’m saying to judge on appearances is human. And, apparently, owl.
Aaaaand… we’re off! Like a race. Really. I felt like we were on a game show working against a clock for some prize.
Amy performed every warm up exercise with her back to us, all of us facing the mirror together, holding 1-2 lb weights. This is clearly a trend in women’s fitness right now – high reps, low weights. I suggest everyone reading this blog ask Elizabeth how she feels about light weight, high rep training.
The BarreTech website tells me:
The workout is such a unique blend of sciences that your body will experience a “wake up call.”
I would have liked to have learned more about that unique blend of sciences. I wanted to ask “Why?” about 20 different exercises we did in class.
The website also pointed out:
The classes are limited to 12 people or less, so there is plenty of opportunity for the teacher to monitor you in class for the first time. The teacher will also review modifications with you if needed and taking a break occasionally is okay.
Which is especially ironic because both M and I were shocked at how few modifications were offered to us throughout class. The class that the website suggests is the best class for beginners. The class in which we both identified ourselves as beginners.
I am sweating, as I do, fewer than ten minutes into class. Amy appears effortless. Amy also appears to have no idea we are in the room. In true dancer fashion, she is fixated on her own appearance in the mirrors.
Except, she’s not the dancer in the room. She’s the teacher. She should be watching us. Observing, connecting, correcting, praising… at minimum – NOTICING us.
I am unpleasantly surprised at how little the music has to do with class. Amy moves us to the beat, but has no interest in phrasing. I expected a barre workout to feel like a dancer’s workout. But dancers work in counts of eight. (Or 1,2,3 1,2,3 for a waltz, or a five beat if performing a jazzy little number to Dave Brubecks’s Take Five.)
Amy has no interest in the eight count. Sometimes we do ten reps, or 20, or 35.
We move to the barre where we fly through sequences, Amy talking, talking, talking. I have no doubt she had some valuable things to say, but I couldn’t find them. There was no way to discern the important information within the barrage of repetitive cues.
Imagine a barrage of information coming at you in 4/4 time, with a snap on every beat as she delivers information in a staccato speaking voice whilst walking around the room.
However, she at least twice comes to correct my form manually – and I love her for it. She actually touches me. With authority.
Best part of class. Wish it happened more. And lasted longer.
Note: We instructors have all felt the squeeze when you need to transition the class with the next cue, but instead you wish you could stay with one person and give them more direction, support, education, etc. Let’s all agree to sloooooow down. To see our classes more and say less. So when we do talk, people’s brains aren’t already full. Amy, baby, take your time.
Worst part of class:
I reenacted this in my home, because a written description couldn’t possibly illustrate properly. The musical selection is exactly what was playing, and my demonstration includes an approximation of the look I gave M when I realized this wasn’t Amy’s attempt to be cheeky and make us laugh. This was a “real” sequence she expected us to complete, about 100 reps long, give or take.
Ok, the second best part of class was the end. Not just because it was over.
BarreTech has a lovely “calling card.” At the end of class, Amy passed out chilled peppermint oiled cloths, instructed us to use them on our necks, collarbone, faces, anywhere that would help us feel fresh and invigorated. Then, she sang the praises of peppermint oil as a natural cleaner and instructed us to use the cloth to wipe down our mat once we were done delicately patting our sweaty brows.
Brilliant! I should have an ending for this review as memorable and enticing as those refreshing cooling cloths.
Alas, I do not.
I have taken enough of your time today. Tune in next week when I review Yoga at JOURNEYoga in Arlington, brought to you by Bob Marley and the color green.